Bulgaria’s new Foreign Minister, Ekaterina Zaharieva, has defended European Union sanctions against Russia, adding that while Bulgaria suffered economic losses as a result, these were “far from being what is said”.
Zaharieva, who is also one of four deputy prime ministers in Boiko Borissov’s coalition government that took office on May 4, said in a Friday morning television interview that relations between Bulgaria and Russia were not bilateral but were within the relations between the EU and Russia.
“Of course, we will be pragmatic, in keeping with the common European policy and ministerial agreements,” Zaharieva said.
“Bulgaria has allies and friends in foreign policy, and our priorities are clear, and we must be pragmatic towards Russia, respecting the common European policy,” she said.
Until there was a pan-European solution, the sanctions could not lapse, Zaharieva said. This was a common European policy and was directed not against Russia but at preserving the international legal order.
The sanctions would continue until Russia fulfilled the Minsk agreements aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“A large force of greater military power cannot just enter another country. International borders are what they were agreed as after World War 2. What would happen if a country said that any part of Bulgaria historically belongs to it?” she said.
Zaharieva reiterated the sanctions imposed after Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea were directed against individual Russian citizens, organisations and companies for their role in the annexation of Ukrainian territory.
On the impact of sanctions, she quipped: “we continue to export pickles to Russia”. She also declined to be defined as a hawk regarding relations with Russia. “Let’s stop these bird definitions,” Zaharieva said.
On relations with Turkey, she said that Bulgaria should follow a policy of good neighbourliness with all nations. There had been an attempt to interfere in Bulgaria’s March 2017 parliamentary elections, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had responded adequately, according to Zaharieva.
She said that it was not in the Bulgarian national interest to declare the Turkish ambassador persona non grata.
Following reports of Ankara’s interference in the March poll, several Bulgarian nationalist politicians, including those now part of Borissov’s governing coalition, called for the expulsion of the Turkish ambassador.